State extending three hilltowns’ Wi-Fi hotspots through June 30

  • The Hawley Highway Department on Route 8A is a Wi-Fi hotspot for residents. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The status of Last Mile broadband projects in Massachusetts, as of Dec. 1, 2021. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/7/2022 3:34:08 PM
Modified: 1/7/2022 3:33:28 PM

Three hilltowns will benefit from an extension in duration of state-funded Wi-Fi hotpots.

Internet access at certain spots in Charlemont, Hawley and Monroe was expected to disappear at the end of December, but the Massachusetts Broadband Institute announced it will be extended until June 30 as part of MBI’s efforts to expand several digital equity programs.

Charlemont’s hotspot at Hawlemont Regional School at 10 School St. will see an extension, as will the Hawley Town Office at 8 Pudding Hollow Road, the Hawley Highway Garage at 247 West Hawley Road (Route 8A), and the Hawley Grove on the eastern side of town. There is also a hotspot at the Monroe Town Office at 3C School St.

Launched in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wi-Fi hotspot program provided outdoor, high-speed wireless access points in municipalities that still lacked broadband access. The program was previously extended in August 2020 and December 2020. According to MBI, state support for hotspots automatically terminates when each town’s broadband project is completed.

Kirby “Lark” Thwing, chair of the Hawley Communications Committee, said the hotspots are a lifeline to residents and students who have no other way of accessing the internet.

“It is used fairly regularly in all locations by those who cannot get a signal,” he said.

Thwing said without the hotspots, Hawley residents would have to drive to Charlemont or Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland.

The Hawley Grove, across the street from the East Hawley Meetinghouse, is kept warm enough so people can have a comfortable place to use Wi-Fi, Thwing added.

“We keep it at 62,” he said.

People can also access the internet from their vehicles outside the building, which is owned by the Sons & Daughters of Hawley, the town’s historical society.

Picnic tables were set up for students in the Highway Garage, which was kept warm, when schools first shut down earlier in the pandemic, Thwing said.

The other towns outside of Franklin County that are benefiting from the extensions are Becket, Florida, Goshen, New Braintree, Sandisfield, Savoy and Tolland.

According to MBI, work continues on the expansion of high-speed internet projects in the remaining unserved communities. More than $57 million in state grants have been awarded to support broadband projects in 53 communities since the program was relaunched in May 2016. Sixty-six percent of Last Mile communities have completed networks and 15 towns have partially-completed projects that have connected some homes and businesses.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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